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Monday, June 13, 2022

Shareholder Michael A. Garcia and Associate Antonio B. Villa de Rey Obtain Unanimous Defense Verdict

Fowler White is pleased to announce that Shareholder Michael A. Garcia and Associate Antonio B. Villa de Rey obtained a resounding unanimous Defense Verdict in a personal injury case for their client, IHOP franchisee NOSNAWS Corp.

The Plaintiff, represented by Morgan and Morgan, was visiting from Orlando, Florida with her husband and sister for her birthday weekend. After partying at a popular Miami Beach location, the Plaintiff walked into the franchisee’s IHOP with the intention of using the bathroom and then ordering food. The Plaintiff claimed she fell in the bathroom hallway which was outside the direct view of the video camera. When she later moved from that location to one where she came into view of the camera, she was seen grimacing and asking for help. An employee of the restaurant was then seen placing a caution sign and grabbing a mop before the video ends. At trial, the Plaintiff relied on her testimony, the testimony of her husband, and the video evidence depicting an employee holding a mop to attempt to establish the existence of a hazardous condition for a prolonged enough period of time that IHOP knew or should have known about it.

During litigation, the Plaintiff presented over $400,000.00 in medical expenses and surgical expenses despite not having had a physical examination prior to the surgery. On the eve of trial, the Plaintiff amended her medical expenses to $166,671.94. During closing arguments, her attorneys requested upwards of $800,000.00 for past and future medical care.

After a 3-day trial, Plaintiff's attorney rested its case and the Defense moved for a Directed Verdict. Judge Mark Blumstein stated to Plaintiff his belief that the Plaintiff had failed to meet her burden and asked Plaintiff to conduct research within a 2-hour recess to show why a Directed Verdict should not be entered. After receipt of the research, Judge Blumstein reserved ruling and allowed the matter to go to the Jury, who ruled emphatically for the Defense on the threshold issue of notice. The Jury returned from deliberations after less than an hour with a unanimous 6-0 Defense Verdict.

Lead attorney for the Defense, Shareholder Michael A. Garcia, regularly litigates cases in State and Federal Courts, as well as in alternative dispute resolution forums. His practice includes the defense of a wide variety of claims, with particular emphasis on premises liability and personal injury matters. He also handles general liability, professional negligence and wrongful death claims. Garcia, who grew up in a family restaurant business, regularly represents restaurants, including national brands and franchises. In addition, he serves as local counsel to numerous nationwide retailers and other leading businesses across diverse industries.

Also defending at trial was Associate Antonio Villa de Rey who focuses his practice on Premises Liability, First Party Insurance and Construction Law. Villa de Rey assisted in developing key questioning regarding the video evidence, which proved that no dangerous condition existed while also assisting in cross-examination of Plaintiff's expert physician. Villa de Rey grew up in the beverage industry and has been recognized by the Hispanic National Bar Association for his studies in Intellectual Property and is certified in Business Law by St. Thomas University.


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